Many of us have experienced periods of stress, depression, or tragedy in our lives. As moms (and wives) even though our hearts might be strained or breaking the basics still need to get done. Clothes need washed, meals need to be cooked. My friend Dana has experienced this first-hand over the past several months. In December her precious son Tiggy passed away after a tragic accident. In this guest post she shares how to get the basics done even when your heart isn’t in it.
Housekeeping When Your Heart Isn’t In It
After my son died, my world was thrown into chaos. I felt as if I had been cast overboard in storm tossed seas and it was all I could do to keep my head above water. For the first week, the children only ate because someone was there to feed them. The meals our community filled our freezer with lasted a little over a month, my husband went back to work and suddenly I found myself alone, wading through unimaginable grief and trying to manage a household with five surviving children.
But there were still days when it felt like no small victory to just get out of bed and face the day. Wading through the toys and clothing strewn through the house and pushing last night’s dinner dishes to the side so I could feed children in Tupperware containers since all the bowls were dirty added to the stress.
The biggest obstacle I faced was that I really didn’t care. I was too consumed by grief to worry over laundry and dishes and clutter taking over the house. Nevermind the dusting and the windows and all that stuff under the couch.
Still, if you don’t do laundry, there will be nothing to wear. And if you don’t do the dishes, there will be nothing to eat on.
When I looked at the mess, I felt helpless before it because I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to even begin. I would shuffle things about, snap at the children and move around a lot without getting much done. Something had to change. That’s when I decided to put our entire household chore list on index cards.
On good days, it helped me stay on top of our household chores. On bad days, it helped keep the clutter from ruling our house. It restored order to our home and the best part was that the children enthusiastically embraced the new system so I got more help and less whining about daily chores.
- Colored index cards (enough colors for each room in the house)
- Dividers (You can make these by turning cards on their side and cutting them)
- A file box to store them in
- Choose a color for each room.
- Write down every chore that needs to be done in each room. Try to keep each task to five minutes or less.
- Sort the cards into daily, weekly and monthly tasks.
- File the sorted cards in the card box.
Whenever you need to clean a room, pull out the daily cards for the room, shuffle and have everyone draw a card. When the task is completed, return the card to the back of that section. We generally did weekly and monthly tasks together and I would just draw one of each.
My children loved it because the tasks were short and I wasn’t directing them. Sometimes they got harder things to do but sometimes they drew a card for a job that didn’t need to be done so they got to take a break. They flew through chores and raced back to hand me their cards and trade it for another one. It helped me because I no longer stressed about everything that needed to be done, nor got lost deciding where to start.
All I needed to worry about was what was written on the card I drew out. And when the mess starts to grow and I feel myself getting anxious, I can have everyone draw one card, do one chore and a sense of order is restored even if the entire house isn’t always cleaned.
The intent was to go through the daily section once a day, and draw out two extra cards a day to keep on top of the weekly and monthly chores. We weren’t always able to keep up with that.
In fact, I still frequently fall behind on laundry and my house is rarely completely clean and ready to entertain guests. There’s currently toothpaste on the mirror in the bathroom, and none of the beds are made. However, the stress is gone and I’m not embarrassed by the mess should someone stop by. The children are helping more than they ever have and I still only have to worry about doing what is on the card I draw from the stack.
Dana Hanley writes about life more abundantly, from the joy of a baby’s smile to the almost unbearable grief of losing a son and seeking each day to find beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3) at Roscommon Acres and is raising money for Tiggy’s House, a children’s home with Tiny Hands International in her son’s memory.